Rock Climbing in Portland Oregon – A Fall Story

One of my closest friends and I recently started touring around trying to find the best rock climbing in Portland Oregon. We are a couple of climbing addicts with some serious drive to find and push our limits. We had never done traditional climbing before this adventure but we were geared up and had all the knowledge we could get our hands on. When we first researched climbing to the top of Wolf Rock we knew it would be a challenge and about 8 hours into the excursion I met the challenge head on.

Discovering Wolf Rock

From the I-5 corridor, take Highway 126 east from Eugene/Springfield, OR. Take 126 about 44 miles east to Road 15 and turn left at the sign for the Blue River Reservoir. Staying on Road 15, you will go 13.6 miles to the climbers trail.

That’s the best route but needless to say I tried to follow google maps and maps doesn’t have a good knowledge of the roads added on to the poor cell reception you are guaranteed to get lost. If you went the right way you will end up at the arch in the rock, it is quite the sight to see on a sunny summer day.

The trail head is a small opening in the trees but it is the only trail that I could see. The trail leads straight to the rock and then you follow the wall to the right up some sketchy loose rock piles, it feels like the climb has already begun.

Pitch by Pitch

The climb started really smooth with a few easy pitches a nice warm up for someone who has only been climbing for recreation about 8 months. We were confident with 5.10 routes but 5.11 was something that we had never completed to this date. Wolf rock route Barad Dur has a crux(hardest part of the climb) of 5.11b.

We were climbing at a steady pace keeping a safe distance from a few fellow climbers ahead of us. Having someone ahead of us helped keep a good pace and also gave us time to check our gear before ascending as well as going over good communication skills while on the rock. One of the worse things that can happen while climbing is miscommunication. It only takes one mistake to change your life forever so we don’t take short cuts.

This route has bolts in most places but a few times I had to place some trad gear in the rock for a safe fall point, it was something I had never done before but I trusted the gear, myself, and my climbing partner. Luckily 5 pitches up the wall and we were climbing just on the edge of our skill level comfort zone, just difficult enough to get a thrill during the climb. We had been on the rock for about 8 hours at this point and fatigue was starting to set in before the crux, but even so I was feeling confident.

The Crux

sixth pitch straight up the wall I would estimate about 700 feet off the ground but I never looked down. It was my turn to lead the climb as we had taken turns leading on the way up. the beginning of the pitch was fairly straight forward climbing with a lot of great spots for trad gear. An easy diagonal up and to the right almost like stairs leads to a flat three-foot by three-foot slab with a bolt right dead in the center of it.

Barely out of reach on the face of the wall was a ledge with about 3 inches of room just enough to stand on but only 3 feet of standing room before It hits an overhang. I climb onto the ledge because it seemed like the right option but I quickly found myself in an awkward crouching position with no hand holds I’m calm at first Ive been in hard spots before I shift left to right multiple times looking for a hold within reach I can tell my forearms have no strength and I can’t say technique is my strongest climbing quality.

I reach for a ledge I hold for a few seconds with my whole body burning from exhaustion. I believe my next move was “Falling!, Falling Hard!!.” It was 10 feet down to the slab and instinctually I grabbed the rope as I fell and prepped for a roll out off the slab. As the rope ripped a diagonal line through my fingers my feet hit the slab I was already spinning before my hip made contact on a roll and sent me swinging head first off the edge. At least that was how it all felt.

My body was numb from adrenaline, I wasn’t sure if my hand was broken, or if I had hit my head and if so how hard(safety gear check, I was wearing a helmet). I couldn’t move my fingers and my whole body had gone tense so I just held on to the rope and calmly called out to my climbing partner, “I think we should go down now”.

Take Your Shot

One of my favorite climbs to date and I have plans to defeat the crux after winter is over. If you like how this climb sounds I highly recommend giving it a shot. Some suggestions I have is make sure you check your traditional gear for the right sizes, the spots on this climb that require gear are on the bigger scale. Always wear your helmet! not just because you could fall like me, but also there’s a lot of loose rocks on this wall and there’s no reason to take any unnecessary risks. Communication is very important always have a plan and call out when you’re moving, falling, or need a rest. I am fairly new to the outdoor climbing game but I plan to have more adventures to come.

I hope you liked my story and if you have any questions for me leave a comment or send me an email at zack@climbwithzack.com

Just keep climbing,

Zack

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *